Video: The Good Harbor Seal ~ What to do if you find a seal on the beach

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

Written, produced, edited, cinematography, and narration by Kim Smith.

The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA was created because of the lack of understanding on the part of my fellow beachgoers on how to mangae a seal encounter. Please help get the word out and please forward the link to friends and neighbors in other communities, whether or not the community is located by the sea. It was the folks from out of town that did not understand that the seal needed simply to be left alone. Thank you!

Although the Good Harbor Seal was not injured, help was needed with the gathering crowd. I called our local police, who in turn sent Lieutenant Roger Thurlow from the Environmental Police. Has anyone had experience with a marine stranding, and if so, is the following the best number to call: Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline ~ 866-755-6622? I will post your hotline recommendations here.

Technical note–The video was filmed without a tripod because I was afraid the tripod would look like a gun and didn’t want to further stress the seal. After reading more about Harbor Seals, I learned that their big brown eyes are particularly adapted to sight in murky water (i.e. harbor waters), but that their eyesight is not that good on land. In retrospect, I don’t think that the seal would have associated the tripod with a weapon. Also, I filmed at a distance much further away than my camera’s capabilities, which caused much vignetting around the edges of many of the clips. I didn’t want to stand close to the seal and be the filmmaker-who-becomes-part-of-the-problem, and not the solution.

Breaking News: Good Harbor Beach Seal Survives


25 thoughts on “Video: The Good Harbor Seal ~ What to do if you find a seal on the beach

  1. Wonderful informational video. Perfect music and the perfect voice. Now I know what to do (and not to do) if I see a beached seal. Thanks Kim!


    1. Thanks so much Manny for your kind words and for sharing the link with your grandchildren.
      As much as your grandkids had a wonderful time, I imagine you must have had an equally wonderful time sharing Good Harbor with them!


    1. Thank you so James, very interesting to learn about their life story.
      The light, or lack of, was so beautiful and atmospheric, but also challenging to grab focus on a gray shape in gray light!


  2. Thank you Kim! Well-done for children and adults alike. I loved the “winsome eyes” juxtaposed with “sharp teeth that tear food into chunks.” Wanted to scream when the sand tractor went by–your film of the seal’s tracks was evidence of terror .


    1. Thank you anonymous and very good to know that you think it worthwhile for kids and for adults. Interesting facts I wished I had included are reasons why they “haul out,” one of them being to escape from predators (sharks!)in the water.

      Yeah, that was pretty bad when the tractor went by. Earlier in the morning dogs had chased it back into the water, too.


    1. Thank you Felicia-another reason I think they tear at our hearts when they are in distress is because they have very puppy-like faces and also the v-shaped noses look like hearts!

      Wonderful to run into you and Barry at the beach tonight. What a huge day — so excited for you, with radio, blog, and newspaper coverage all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Thank you, Kim ,for such a beautiful and informative video…in one take! Nice job. What an important piece to share with local nursery schools. I enjoyed talking with you at the mug up Sunday and hearing about your new projects!


    1. Thank you Sue for your encouraging words.

      Yes was good to meet you, too, Sue, and to hear more about Remax. I find Kenny’s real estate information posted on GMG interesting and good to learn more about what you do with Remax!


    1. I agree Jim and think the tractor drivers would benefit from training, and the seals greatly so.

      I was thinking two actions that would be helpful and educational to beachgoers and maintenance workers, which would also help the lifeguards with crowd control:

      1) Brochures at public beaches with explanations and information on proper protocol for large marine life encounters.

      2) If there had been a sign at the beach instructing people how to respond, then people like myself (local residents who know what to do) would not have get into arguments with heedless headstrong types, and there would have been no reason to call the police. We could simply point to the official-looking sign and say that leaving the seal alone is actually the best action for the health and well-being of the seal. The sign could also inform people what to do if they encounter an injured dolphin or porpoise.


  4. Wonderful video with correct information. NEAQ is currently responding to issues such as this and I am a Marine Mammal Stranding Responder. It SO important to get this information out!!!


  5. While the Environmental Police Officer may be as qualified as anyone to determine that the seal is not injured, he cannot possible have the experience or training to determine if the seal is suffering from an illness. While this seal did not seem to be in serious or critical condition, its behavior certainly suggests that it may be experiencing mild respiratory distress due to an infection. Harbor Seal pups frequently get respiratory infections, sometimes they need treatment, sometimes they don’t.

    In regards to the 150 ft distance, this is not only a good idea, it’s actually a law and the lifeguards and beach attendants/cleaners should know that. Operating that machine close enough to the seal to cause it to try and flee is a clear violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and would be classified as “harassment” which carries a penalty of up to $10,000.00 and a year in jail. I can not stress enough that officials and citizens of sea side communities really need to be made aware of the laws that protect these animals from the stresses it experienced in this video.

    Also each coastal state has at least one marine mammal rescue team, Mass. has several, some are specific to whales and dolphins, others deal with seals, some with all three and sea turtles as well. Their phone numbers should be listed individually on the Northeast Region Stranding Network’s Website. Beachcombers should always have those local numbers in their cell phones for such encounters.

    My response is based on nearly 20 years as a volunteer on a marine mammal rescue team.


  6. As someone who volunteers with organizations dedicated to helping marine mammals, I really appreciate your informative piece. The safe distance of 150 feet is actually a law to protect marine mammals and carries a large fine.


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